Cecil Rhodes statue in Cape Town has head removed

  • Published
Visitor looks at damaged Rhodes statueImage source, AFP

A statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes has been decapitated in Cape Town in South Africa.

The bronze bust in a city park had its head removed with an angle grinder on Sunday night or Monday morning, South African National Parks said.

It is the latest monument associated with imperialism or slavery to be targeted since African American George Floyd was killed in US police custody.

His death triggered huge anti-racism demonstrations around the world.

Rhodes, a white supremacist, led the British colonisation of parts of southern Africa during the 19th Century and made a fortune from mining.

Last month, a college at Oxford University said it would take down a statue of Rhodes after years of pressure by campaigners, who argued it was a symbol of imperialism and racism.

The Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town was built in 1912 on the slopes of Table Mountain and features eight lion statues alongside steps leading up to a granite building where the bust is.

South African National Parks said it had reported the damage to police.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Oxford University's Oriel College says it will take down the statue of Rhodes there

The statue had previously been targeted and was first vandalised in 2001, when red paint was splashed on it. In 2017 its nose was cut off, but was restored the following year.

Another statue of Rhodes, at the University of Cape Town, was removed in 2015 after it became the focus of protests against colonial-era leaders.

Rhodes, a revered figure during the days of the British Empire, founded the De Beers mining company in South Africa and also took control of territory in southern Africa that eventually became Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He believed that the English were the master race.

Both South Africa and the former Rhodesia were ruled by white minorities for many years.

Rhodes left money to Oxford University's Oriel College after his death in 1902 at the age of 48. A campaign to remove the statue of him at the college began after the 2015 protests at Cape Town university.